My Week: Rahul 'Richie' Nanda of Topsgrup Security

He's built a £200m security empire spanning the UK and India. Richie Nanda, the enigmatic founder of Topsgrup Security, on the recession, late-sleepers, and why - these days - he walks away from a fight.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
As the global chairman of two security companies, one in India and one in the UK, I fly back and forth quite a bit. I’m in India at least once a month at the moment, and in the US every three months, although recently I have been over there a lot trying to broker the acquisition of a $600m security company. But the deal, unfortunately, just fell through. Even when you have a quantity of money in the market, the recession has completely decimated confidence, and the quality just isn’t there. We’d inked the contract but it still just collapsed.

I’ve never seen a recession like this before and I hope I won’t again. Much of my time at the moment is spent reviewing my business interests and minimising costs. Also, looking at what scalable businesses I can get into. For example, we don’t concentrate on corporate security any more. It’s a ‘nice to have’ add-on that they get rid of when times are tough. But in the manufacturing industry, with valuable raw materials on site, security is mandatory. So we’re focusing on these areas instead.

This is not solely in reaction to the recession. As an entrepreneur, you are future-proofing your business all the time. I am responsible for 93,000 employees. I’m always thinking how to increase market share and gain a sustainable advantage against our competitors.

I work 17 hours a day, most days. The good thing is that I have eight managing directors, CEOs and vice presidents across the globe, so I don’t have to do any donkey work. But strategy is not easy. I am always working. Even when I am at a party, I’m networking for my business. If I’m at the gym, I’ll strike up conversations with prospective customers.

I sleep five or six hours maximum a night and get up at 6am in the morning, even on Sundays. I’ve being doing that for 10 years, and any more hours are just luxury. People who get up late, they have no responsibilities.

This level of discipline runs in the family. My father was in the army. He went on to make movies eventually but he was the one who set up the original Topsgrup company in India. When I was 21, I saw that we had a security business lying dormant, not doing anything, so I decided to try and get it back on track. My first client was a small manufacturer of biscuits, my second had a small factory where he made parts for watches. For the first year, I was earning £10 a week. Now, it’s a £200m business.

I used to be on the front line of the business – I’m a black belt in martial arts - but these days I don’t have the same stomach for a fight. I have more to lose – a wife and three children. Now, if someone pushes me, I walk away. If I hit a man, it would be in the papers. ‘Rahul Nanda from the Rich List goes mad!’

As the founder of a business, there always comes a time when you have to cash out. As a CEO, you only take a salary. In about four years or so, when I think the market’s right, if I get a valuation I think my company’s worth, I will exit. After that, I want to make movies like my dad. He never found much success with his films, so hopefully I will make a blockbuster, and his dream can be fulfilled through my eyes.

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